Leica X Typ 113 brief impressions

Discussion in 'Leica X1/X2 Forum' started by Archiver, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to briefly shoot with the new Leica X Typ 113. As you folks will know, it's essentially the X Vario body with a 23mm f1.7 lens, giving it a 35mm field of view. Normally, I'd illustrate a post like this with all sorts of sample images, but nothing I took was worth showing, photographically.

    Handling feels very nice indeed, much more like a film Leica M body than the thicker digital M cameras. My thumb slipped instinctively into the thumb groove, which makes it the first camera with which this has happened, and you know I've had a LOT of cameras! The body is lighter than I expected, and almost a little hollow.

    The lens barrel is thicker than I expected, and invites you to shoot with both hands, making it feel like a 'proper camera'. The barrel is twice as long as that of the Fuji X100, which may make me a little more conscious of it if wearing it across my shoulder or neck. Manual focus is smooth and easy, going from the Autofocus detent straight into manual focus when you want.

    The dials and buttons are more hit and miss. The shutter speed and aperture dials are solidly made and reasonably firm, but not as firm as I'd like. The buttons on the back feel very easy to press, so I'd prefer to use a leather half case to help prevent them being accidentally pressed.

    The shooting experience is not quite what I was hoping for, but satisfactory. Autofocus in bright daylight is reasonably quick, but the Ricoh GR and Fuji X100 with latest firmware, which I had with me for comparison, were faster. The Ricoh GR is noticeably faster, whereas the X 113 felt like it had to hunt a bit. I also noticed a time when I had to refocus three or four times to get the spot I wanted, unlike the GR and X100. I was using one-point field AF at the time, so maybe the spot AF function may have worked better.

    A lot has been said about the variable aperture, which starts to stop down from f1.7 to f2.8, starting at 1m. Leica says that this is to keep image quality optimal at all shooting distances, but a number of people are disappointed at not being able to use the lens at f1.7 all the way to the closest focus distance of 20cm. Having tried it at varying distances, I can say that unless you want sliver-thin DoF up close, or want to shoot at lower ISO's while freezing movement, the variable aperture is not a problem.

    The 113 closes the aperture to f2 for subjects at 1m, and at f2, the X 113's lens has no glow or softness, unlike the Fuji X100. At closer distances, it closes further, down to f2.8 from 40cm and closer.

    Much has also been said after the DPReview test samples were load into their comparometer, with only the centre being sharp, and the rest of the image being soft. I didn't take any test images that would show this, so I don't know at this stage.

    As for image quality, which is the real test for a camera from a much vaunted company: unlike many, I am NOT a fan of how Leica's default jpegs are rendered. I find them flat and uninteresting, and always process raws in Lightroom. Using Lightroom 4.4, not only was I able to easily process the raw files, but found them to have very nice colour qualities, particularly skin tones. White balance was very accurate, too. I was surprised to find that the X 113 produced skin tones that I liked much more easily than the Fuji X100 or the Ricoh GR, or even the Panasonic GM1 and Oly 25/1.8, which I am really enjoying.

    However, when processed in Lightroom, the files seemed to lack 'something', perhaps a kind of depth or richness that I find in files from the Leica M9, Ricoh GR, and even the GXR. I suspect this may have something to do with the AA filter, as the Ricoh GR uses the same sensor but the files have much more 'bite'.

    I've just begun to play with the files in Raw Therapee, but since I am quite unfamiliar with this program, I'm finding it clunky. I've been using Lightroom since 2009 and everything I shoot goes through it. But the colour from Raw Therapee at default looks even better than Lightroom, and the files have a bit more bite, so this bears more exploration.

    To wrap up: handling good, operation is reasonable, variable aperture not really an issue, and file quality is still on the fence between, 'Yeah, I'd go with that' and 'do I really want to spend AUD$2700 on this?' The file quality is good but not so good that I want to throw cash on the table just yet. The files I'm beginning to see come out of Raw Therapee don't give me that 'oh wow' feeling like I get from the GR on a good day, or the Sigma DP1 when processed with Sigma Photo Pro. I don't expect the X 113 files to look like M9 files - although it would be very nice - but I'd like them to please me as much as the GR or Sigma DP1, at least. If they gave me that feeling, I'd be throwing money at Leica right now. The jury is still out for the moment.
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  2. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    I've been processing the raws I took, and I hope that photographyblog.com will do a review soon because they always provide raw file samples.

    <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/archiver/15842789425" title="X 113 - Test 1 by Archiver, on Flickr">[​IMG]"640" height="424" alt="X 113 - Test 1"></a>

    This image showed me the difference between Lightroom and Raw Therapee in terms of lens correction. Even though LR 4.4 does not support the X 113, it produced a good image and corrected the lens distortion. Raw Therapee shows a different outcome, with noticeable distortion and a wider image. Correcting the image in Raw Therapee gives a straight but still slightly wider image than Lightroom. It seems that lens correction data is written into the DNGs, which LR acts upon, but RT does not.

    A question on my mind is what the X 113 would bring me that my other gear wouldn't. Even the Panasonic GM1 with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 will shoot with a depth of field equivalent to f3.6 up to 20cm, and the results are clean and clear; the X 113 would stop down to f2.8, which would give a DoF equivalent of f4.2. The Fuji X100 could stay at f2, but the image is soft and glowy, which I am not that fond of in close/macro imaging. The full f1.7 aperture comes into effect from 1m and further, which would be good to subtly pick out a subject in middle distance, or keep ISO down in low light.

    <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/archiver/15842784385" title="X 113 - Test 2 by Archiver, on Flickr">[​IMG]"640" height="424" alt="X 113 - Test 2"></a>

    The image above was shot from the hip. I pushed the shutter button down all the way and the camera focused instantly and perfectly, although I am unsure if this was lucky or the normal outcome. In Raw Therapee, the skin tones are very natural, although in this Lightroom image, I used one of Michael Grey's Kodachrome presets. Her dress was not this shade of blue; this blue is a result of the Kodachrome preset.

    When I was first processing the raws from the Leica M9, I had the sense that it was like a full frame Sigma DP1 with all the image issues worked out. The clarity and pop of the images, the pixel level detail, the fine gradations of colour, it was amazing. I didn't feel the same when I tested raws from the original Leica X1 at all, though. Despite using the same 12mp sensor as my much-loved Ricoh GXR modules, I could not get the colours the way I wanted, and I really felt disappointed. Mechanically it bugged the heck out of me as well, but the X 113 has none of that. It handles very nicely and feels very good in the hand.

    <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/archiver/15655414490" title="X 113 - Test 3 by Archiver, on Flickr">[​IMG]"640" height="424" alt="X 113 - Test 3"></a>

    I'm somewhere between those reactions with the X 113. The files are quite adequate compared with the usual DSLR files, and had I not been exposed to superlative image quality and particular looks from other cameras, I'd be perfectly happy with it. But I haven't hit a processing style that makes me go 'wow', and I'm wondering if the files have that potential. The aspect of image quality I like most in the X 113 is the ease of getting nice skin tones. But this is best in Raw Therapee, and as well featured as it is, it lacks things I use a lot, like the local adjustment brush and Clarity, as well as the ability to adjust a range of hues, saturation and luminance in a set of logical sliders. Is the X 113 worth it for me, just to get nicer skin tones? I don't know.

    The gear head in me just wants to get one and shoot and work with it, as the output is certainly good 'enough'. But I'm not getting the 'holy cra...' feeling from the files.

    I have also been playing with a number of raw files from the Sony RX1 and Fuji X100S, just for comparison. The RX1 files are as plastic and malleable and wonderful as everyone says they are, but I can't get past a certain kind of 'sterility' to them. I just don't know. The X100S files are very decent, the pixel level sharpness is great, the dynamic range seems better than the X 113 files I've been playing with, but Fuji does something with colour that makes things kind of 'plasticky'. It's another thing I find difficult to articulate. The X 113 files can also have this kind of 'plasticky' look, but I attribute that to its AA filter. Not sure what I can do about that.

    This is just me thinking out loud. $2700 is not small change, especially as I don't need another camera. I hope these thoughts and impressions are of help to someone.
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  3. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Thanks for your thoughts. It is difficult for me to justify buying a Leica camera nowadays -- especially when cameras that are technically superior can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. Also, to my eyes anyway, the digital files for Leica cameras using CMOS sensors do not have the same character as the M9 files. The closest "newer" camera that gave somewhat of a M9 "feel" was the Ricoh GR.
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  4. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    I agree, it's harder to for me to justify buying a digital Leica as well, unless it's a M body. And that's a big leap in price. As I said, if the images from the X 113 were like the Ricoh GXR M module, or the Ricoh GR, Leica would have my money and I'd have a new camera by now. Weirdly, the X113 has less recoverable highlights than the GR, at least from my preliminary tests. Possibly, the dynamic range is more in the shadows than the highlights, but still...

    There is a scale of price and expectations at work, too. I love the Panasonic LX7, especially with a Lightroom profile I created that is based on the Ricoh GR Positive Film setting. I'm often delighted by how quickly and simply it spits out good looking images. But I paid about $600 for it, compared with the X 113 which is $2700 in Australia and seems to require a fair bit of tinkering to get images that I consistently like. And even then, the output isn't as nice as the Ricoh GR, which is less than a third of the cost.

    Tests and ruminations continue. As it stands, I may be better off with a Sony RX1r for the same kind of money.
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  5. RT Panther

    RT Panther SC All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    Ditto here.
    I've got nothing against Leica/Leica shooters.....But if I get one, it will be an "M" series too!....:smile:
  6. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Real Name:
    Bill Palmer
    There's a reason the only Leicas I have left only eat film...

    Great write-up, thank you.
  7. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    As an aside, I just did a brief test shoot with the Sony RX1. Being able to shoot in a familiar environment makes a lot of difference, particularly when you've taken a lot of photos there before. As nice as some cathedral in Italy looks, I have no idea what it looks like in real life, so I have no way to internally compare image with reality.

    The RX1 files are incredibly malleable and the dynamic range is fantastic. The ability to recover shadow and highlight detail is almost magical. The lens is sharp and there are nicely fine gradation of colour, too. The bokeh is very diffuse and smooth (maybe even too smooth???) for a 35mm lens. Definitely a considerable jump above the X 113.

    Unfortunately, none of the Lightroom profiles produce an 'attractive' colour cast for me. Skin looks brownish and sallow, similar to the difference between the Olympus EM-5 files processed in Lightroom vs Olympus Viewer 3. Raw Therapee produces lovely skin tones by default, but again, I'm not fond of the idea of learning another raw processor only to produce images that please me from just one camera. And I hate to say it, but I've been prodding and poking at the files, and I can't get a look that I like as much as the M9, GXR, GR or even Sigma DP1. This could be due to limitations in my post skills, or I just like a certain set of attributes that the RX1 doesn't have. I sharpen the bejeezus out of the images, play with Clarity, whatever, and I can't get the images to pop like the M9 or DP1.

    If I'm this keen to buy new gear, I might as well buy another lens for an existing system. Or a Panasonic LX100 for fun. As for the X 113, I've let that go for now. Sigh... :frown:
  8. BruPri

    BruPri SC Top Veteran

    May 11, 2011
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Real Name:
    Bruce J. Pritchard
    I purchased some Leica-Look profiles for LR5, not sure they get what I'm looking for. There was a time last year when I went out and shot my M9/35Chron and RX1 side by side. I was very hard pressed to tell the difference but the Leica images had an indefinable edge. Could be the color rendering which was more pleasing to my eye. The Leica had more appealing aqua rendering to me.
  9. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
  10. Jip

    Jip SC Regular

    Mar 16, 2014
    Rotterdam, the Netherlands
    Real Name:
    Jip van Kuijk
    I shoot various Leica systems for a living (I do reportage photography and workshops, teach classes...) I've shot the following Leica's digitally:

    Leica M
    Leica R (R8 with DM-R)
    Leica X
    Leica S

    I currently own a Digital Leica S-E (Typ 006) and an X-E (Typ 102) and X (Typ 113)

    I used to shoot the Leica M8/M9/M240 as my main camera's but I have found that the Leica S cameras suit my shooting style better, but I missed the compactness of the M's. The X series fills in this gap nicely with amazing quality (especially the X (Typ 113))

    I've got an album showing some pictures I have taken with the Leica X (Typ 113) I feel it's a very capable camera and has a typical Leica look to the files I am used to with the more expensive/professional cameras by Leica. I also use the Leica X-E (Typ 102) mainly during workshops I give. The X-E has the same imaging sensor just a different body and lens, the files are similar and equally good for my taste. Nice tonality with good colour palette. I'm only talking about the DNG (RAW) files here though, since I don't use JPEGs.

    See here a few albums showing the different files from different Leicas.

    Leica X (Typ 113) (X (Typ 113))
    Leica X-E (Typ 102) (X-E (Typ 102) same camera as the Leica X2)
    Leica S (Typ 006) (Leica S-E (Typ 006))
    Leica M (Typ 240) (Leica M (Typ 240))

    Hope this helps some people :)
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